On the first day of my sabbath, I rose early to head to Danville, KY to walk the labyrinth near Centre College. It was a beautiful drive. The morning fog across the horse farms felt like pure Kentucky. At 6:30 am, there was no one around. I found a parking spot and with anticipation I walked toward the labyrinth. As I approached, my heart sank. I could barely see it. Weeds, leaves and gravel covered most of it.At first I thought I could go ahead and walk it, ignoring the cluttered paths and walk around the mess. Then it hit me, my own words from the opening of my sermon yesterday and the same opening words in our grant proposal given to Lily Endowment Clergy Renewal program: “His three year old body picked up a stick that looked huge and heavy in his little hands. Banging the stick to the ground, he then began making the sound of a motor while slowing moving the stick along the edge of the trail. I asked him: “What are you doing buddy?” “Weed eating Momma. I’m getting rid of the weeds so that we can see the road like we can see our sidewalk at home.”
In order to see the path God calls us to walk, sometimes we have to remove some weeds. Of course I was going to have to remove some weeds to see the the path of my first labyrinth walk of the sabbatical. How much more metaphorical can it get? My walk on the labyrinth literallly began with me on my knees pulling weeds. After pulling all the weeds, I was not sure what would be the most efficient way to sweep all the debris off the labyrinth. I thought maybe one quadrant at a time. A funny thing happen. I found myself sweeping, walking, in a circular walk around the labyrinth, sweeping the debris toward the outer circuits. I walked the labyrinth as I swept it. I’ve tried to find the words to describe the deep spiritual experience this was. I became almost lost in it. I looked up and saw that the center and the 7-8 circuits around the center were completely clean. In those moments I truly felt more centered than I have in awhile.
This experience of clearing the weeds became a way for me to release my worries about the next few weeks. Did I prepare everything that the volunteers need? Will I be able to be in the moments and not feel the need to plan the next moment? What will I think about if I’m not planning or working on a new ministry or how to improve current ministries? It was hard work cleaning the labyrinth. When I finished, it looked beautiful and ready to walk. Letting go can be hard work, but beauty often follows.
I always begin my pastoral prayers with “Let us center ourselves and meet God in prayer.” Taking some time to let go and be as fully present with God makes the moments of prayer more meaningful. It’s like being with a friend, co-worker or family member. Put down the cell phone and make eye contact. Get off the computer and pay attention. Turn off the television and really listen.
I wonder how you can center yourself to be more fully present, with God, your friends, your co-workers and your family. I think we all need to engage in some weed eatimg. Tomorrow begins with another sunrise. May the paths you walk center you and bring you peace.